To abort or to not abort? In the documentary by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, that is the essential question for numerous women traveling to the intersection of 12th and Delaware in the state of Florida. Located on opposite sides of the street are an abortion clinic and a pregnancy care center. Obviously, tensions run high at this intersection, with pro-life protesters constantly in front of the abortion clinic, trying to deter women from following through with an abortion. The documentary presents facts, dialogue, interviews, and observations, yet it remains remarkably unbiased. The individuals speak for themselves through their actions and their perceptability toward the specific hardships each patient undergoes. An extremely controversial topic, the abortion debate is one that seems to never end. Does life start at conception? Should women have sole control over the decision? Does abortion threaten good values of life? A lot of this depends on your religious beliefs. Yet one thing remains true: a woman should be educated and conscious about her options in a way that is catered to what she needs for her wellbeing, health, family life, or conscience.
Abortion is not for everyone. Some women consider abortion and decide to have their baby. However, many women follow through with abortion, and some have even more than one. This is the decision they needed to make in order to continue to survive. Each has her own story. Some are too young to take care of a child. Some have no healthcare. Some are too old and don't want to risk their health or fear taking care of a baby at an older age. Some have no support networks, such as a partner or a family. Some already have too large of a family and cannot support another child. Some are stuck in a harmful situation such as an abusive relationship and do not want to bring a child into that situation. Some just may not want a baby at that point in time of their life. This is the decision of the woman, with help from the loved ones who are affected by the decision. It is not up to us, or to the government, or to a bunch of men, to decide what a woman will do with her body or how the rest of her life will go. Women need to have the support, the resources, and the agency to make their own decisions.
The dogma carried out by the couple (Candace and Arnold) who ran the abortion clinic in the film aligns well with these statements. When a woman discussed her need for an abortion with Candace, Candace asked for her reasons, made sure this was her decision, was open and encouraging about discussing alternative options, was sympathetic, and made it clear that no woman truly wants an abortion, but she should do it if it is what she needs to do to survive and function well. When the pro-life protesters convinced a woman walking up to the abortion clinic to come with them instead into the pregnancy care center, saying they would pay her rent, pay for food, pay for whatever she needed, Candace just said, "If she changed her mind, that's fine. But if they make these promises to her, and she depends on them...well, I've seen it over and over again. They never follow through." [This particular woman was a single mom, very young, and with 6 already born children. If these people lied about financially helping her yet convinced her to keep her 7th baby, she or them could very possibly die from not having enough food or money to survive.] Candance showed her support to women for whom an abortion was not the right option, but also was a resource to those who needed it.
On the other hand, the pregnancy care center staff pretty much did anything they could do to convince women to keep their baby. They were all very religious people and stated that God would not want them to kill their babies, all the while holding up signs of mangled fetuses. They had strong beliefs and could not understand how women could do this to their children. But that is entirely it--their strong beliefs cloud their ability to see the reality of the hardships that these women would face in pregnancy. They do not understand what women go through or the individual cases that cause these women strife. By judging a woman receiving an abortion, it is impossible to be fully conscious of her reasons in doing so. One possible future mother said about the main advocate at the care center: "She ain't gonna be the one taking care of this baby. Is she gonna get up in the middle of the night and fix a bottle?" The center was providing advice and deterrance from the possibility of abortion, yet it failed to address the lack of resources these women would need in the future as mothers in undesired situations.
The lady at the pregnancy care center (I forget her name) was very passionate about her work and truly believed she was saving lives. She herself was never a mother as far as we know. I appreciated the advice she gave to women about benefits of being pregnant and being a mother. Yet I did not appreciate her deceptions in convincing them to stay away from abortion. For example, the center gave free ultrasounds, and they would tell women that they were less far along than they actually were -- so that gave them more time to think about the decision. The lady told a patient, after hearing how her boyfriend was abusive, that for all she knows "the baby will change him." This lady was not giving her advice to get out of an abusive relationship or advising against bringing a helpless child into a bad situation, but telling her to do exactly that in hopes that it would change her boyfriend's verbally abusive behavior. That is NOT okay. She also provided resources that women who have abortion could die or not have children in the future to a 15 YEAR OLD GIRL, who, based on that biased information, decided to have her baby. I guess the lady failed to mention that those risks are pretty minimal, and that pregnancy has a lot of risks too and is pretty messy itself.
The movie ends with a statistic: in the US, there are 4000 pregnancy care centers and only 816 abortion clinics.
This is a hard decision. No one is saying it isn't. No one wants to have an abortion. But women all of ages and backgrounds do have them, and they even seek them out illegally when resources become limited and laws become stricter. This has gone on for as long as can look back. And it will continue until we realize women need to be conscious agents about their choice in reproduction, and that they should not be condemned for their choices, for one does not truly know their struggle nor their experience and therefore cannot judge.
Dr. George Tiller, an abortion providor who was assassinated by an anti-abortion activist in 2009, once said, "“Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is a matter of the heart. For until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all.”
I don't think truer words have ever been spoken.